Spot the difference…

Physiotherapy vs. Chiropractor – what is the difference?

As Physiotherapists we are often asked the difference Physiotherapy and Chiropractic so we’ve summarised a few key points to help you understand. Some people have the belief that there is an ongoing rivalry between the two professions, but it is just not true.

Physiotherapy has a much broader scope of practice than chiropractic treatment does.  A well trained physiotherapist should have the ability to mobilise and manipulate the spine, perform muscle release techniques, use acupuncture or needling treatments, teach core stability exercises, help work on your posture and balance or build a sport specific training program for you.  Chiropractors focus on joint manipulation with a smaller percentage also using muscle release techniques and acupuncture.


What is meant by Physiotherapy mobilisation techniques?

Physiotherapists treat back and neck pain, sciatica, arthritis, swelling in joints, repetitive strain injury, sports injuries and cartilage, ligament and tendon damage.

Physiotherapy is a field geared towards;


  • Restoring mobility
  • Improving independence
  • Restoring functionality
  • Improving psychological well being.

Physiotherapy focus’s on patients that present with an illness or injury that limits their movement and has a negative effect on their quality of life. A physiotherapist then aims to restore both mobility and quality of life by means of;

  • Manipulation and mobilisation
  • Therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Electrotherapy

While physio’s deal with a range of different physical issues and their presentations, a chiropractor’s practice focuses on the treatment of joints and other musculoskeletal structures like tendons and ligaments, particularly in and around the spine.

What is meant by Chiropractic manipulation?

Chiropractors use their hands to adjust the joints of your spine and limbs where signs of restricted movement are found. Gentle, specific manipulation techniques help to restore normal body movement. Treatment aims to make you move better and more freely.

Chiropractors treat acute and chronic low back and neck pain, sciatica, neck related and tension headaches, neck related dizziness or vertigo and extremity joint conditions,

Chiropractic exclusively uses techniques of manipulation to relieve pain, realign the spine, adjust posture, and restore joint function. The practice of chiropractic is very spinally focussed, and some conditions that a physio would not attribute to spinal alignment would be considered as such by a chiropractor.

While both practices utilise manipulations, chiropractors use a style that frequently makes use of shorter and more forceful movements. In contrast a physio will use these less often, and supplement their manipulations with therapeutic exercise and/or massage.

Similarities between chiropractic and physiotherapy

While the two fields are quite different, they do still share some common ground in terms of treatment and outcome. Both use manipulations and both look to restore joint function, improve posture, and relieve pain as clinical end points. This is where the similarities more or less end however, as the two disciplines are quite different in how they are applied and why.

Hope that helps to clear up the question.